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Making Your Own Butzemann

early spring crocuses
Crocuses, an early Spring flower. Author’s photo.

In the Urglaawe calendar, we’re currently experiencing Entschanning, or the emergence, a 12-day observance beginning with Grundsaudaag on February 2nd. This is a busy time spiritually. We’re preparing for Spring but not quite there yet. The emergence is kind of like those first shoots of green peeking through the snow or those warm days in between the cold fronts. Just yesterday, in Southwestern Pennsylvania where I’m from, we had a day in the mid-60s with lots of rain and even thunder. Today, we’ve dropped into the 30s again and are getting blanketed in “Holle’s pillow feathers”–that is, lots of snow!

We complete lots of tasks during Entschanning. We’re busy cleaning out our hearths, stoves, fire pits, or even candle holders if that’s what’s on hand, and then ceremonially re-lighting them from birch wood. Spring cleaning has officially begun, and we have from now until April 30th to clear our homes physically and spiritually in preparation for Holle’s return from the Wild Hunt. In our personal lives, it’s time to extinguish old burdens (as we extinguish the old hearth flame), clean up our home, storage, and issues in our lives, and make room for creative energies and messages from other realms. It’s the final step we take before beginning work on our goals that we’ve been contemplating and planning since Allelieweziel (October 31).

There’s one more thing we do during this flurry of new activity: we create a Butzemann. What’s a Butzemann? It’s basically a scarecrow, stuffed with dried plants from last year’s harvest, and animated ritually with the spirit of those plants within him. A Butzemann’s task is to protect the land: the crops, the animals of the farm or household, the people who live and visit there, the home and other buildings like barns or sheds.

The custom of making a Butzemann comes to us from Deitsch, or Pennsylvania Dutch, culture. A Butzemann was created to stand guard over the fields and flocks of farmers. He was given a name, which he passed on to future Butzemenner on the same piece of land, and a set of clothing, which was his and his alone. Misfortune would befall those who would dare to steal a Butzemann’s special outfit. You can learn more about the folklore of the Butzemann from this story on the Deitsch Mythology blog.

Like any dealings with spirits in Urglaawe, working with a Butzemann requires reciprocity. He guards the land, but we must give him gifts in return. His first two gifts are his name and his clothing. These are given during the ceremony in which you awaken him to do his work. Next, you give him regular offerings during the growing season. These offerings could include traditional Urglaawe offerings, such as beans, mead, or cider. They could also include traditional gifts to the land, such as eggs, honey, milk, and bread. Or, you might just want to offer your Butzemann a bit of whatever the family is having for dinner. Many people find that weekly offerings, with an extra special offering on holidays, make for a happy Butzemann.

Finally, you make a very important oath to your Butzemann while you are creating him. When the time comes for the Wild Hunt to ride, you must burn your Butzemann and his clothes, with respect and gratitude, and send his spirit to join Frau Holle as She rides across the skies. This must take place absolutely no later than Allelieweziel on October 31st. If you fail in this duty, then when the Butzemann’s spirit is called away to join the Hunt, his body, built up by your workings and offerings, will become a powerful empty shell for an evil or ill-meaning spirit to use to terrorize the family and their neighbors. As the folklore shows, this turns the Butzemann from an ally into a cursed object. If you even think you will not be able to fulfill this oath in time, you should not build a Butzemann.

So now that you know the spiritual obligations of having a Butzemann, how do you physically go about creating one? You will need a few simple supplies. Keep in mind that since you must eventually burn the Butzemann, you should choose supplies that will burn easily and not give off any noxious fumes.

You will need:

  • Fabric (cotton or linen are good)
  • Dried leaves, flowers, or other parts of plants that grow on your property/in your home
  • Sewing thread
  • Something to mark a face: embroidery thread, markers, paints, etc
  • Stuffing: natural fabrics, crumpled paper, corn husks, straw etc
  • A stake or support to stand your Butzemann in his eventual home post
  • Slips of paper and a pen
  • A small piece of fabric or felt to make a heart for the Butzemann
  • Clothing for the Butzemann: store bought clothes, doll clothes, or clothes you make yourself from additional fabric

You can make any size of Butzemann that works for your situation. If you live in a small apartment with absolutely no access to the outdoors, make a doll sized Butzemann that can stand in a flower pot or sit on a shelf. If you have a farm, a full sized scarecrow as big as a person works, and can wear clothes you buy from the thrift store or gift him as hand-me-downs. Butzemenner don’t seem to be picky about their fashion, but the clothes should be in good repair, and, once given to the Butzemann, never ever taken from him, and burned with him by Allelieweziel.

There are different methods you can use to make your Butzemann. For smaller styles, you can trace a simple doll outline onto fabric, cut out, and sew both sides together. For a large Butzemann, you can use the clothes to help hold the stuffing, tying off the arms and legs, and then add a fabric head, as in traditional scarecrows, to minimize the amount of sewing you need to accomplish. You could also take twigs or sticks, roll them up in fabric, and tie the fabric in place to get your limbs.

I actually knitted my first Butzemann, but this was a mistake. I used wool yarn to knit him, stuffed him with old

The author’s own Butzemann, a miniaturized indoor version, pictured with some offerings of beans and eggs.

socks made from polyester blends and dressed him in a toddler outfit. What do all of these items have in common? They’re difficult to burn and give off lots of noxious fumes when they do! If you do prefer to knit or crochet as your Butzemann building method, you’re going to have to use a fiber that will burn readily and not cause you any headaches.

Can you make a paper Butzemann for indoor purposes? You could try it, but I wouldn’t recommend it. He’s not likely to withstand the entire growing season the way he needs to.

While you’re stuffing your Butzemann, it’s appropriate to add a little magic. Firstly, you’ll need to create a heart for him. This can be a simple paper, felt, or fabric cutout of a symbolic heart. This will be used to help give your Butzemann life. You might also want to add slips of paper with runes, sigils, or magical intentions written on them. You can find more ideas on what to add in the Urglaawe Braucherei Guild notes on building a Butzemann. The most important part of the stuffing, though, is the physical representation of plants from the property the Butzemann is guarding, even if it’s just a blade of grass from your yard.

You should also give your Butzemann a face, with representations of eyes, a nose, a mouth, and ears. This gives him access to all of his senses in order to vigilantly guard your property, communicate, and fulfill his duties.

The ceremony for creating a Butzemann, known as a Kannsege (“Ceremony of the Corn”), can be found on the Braucherei website. It’s “adapted for use outside of the Braucherei guilds”, meaning that no Verbots are broken in sharing this information.

What does a Butzemann wear? Many people seem to dress him as a farmer, with overalls and a straw hat, or jeans and flannel. A belt can be useful for helping to secure your Butzemann to his stake or post. Some people add warmer clothes, like a jacket or scarf, as the weather turns cooler in Fall. Since the clothing is your gift to your Butzemann, feel free to decorate it or add special touches that express your wishes for him. The part of Deitsch culture that we inherit this custom from, called the “Fancy Dutch”, was so named because these are a people who love to decorate and embellish everything in their homes, so adding these touches is very in keeping with the Deitsch spirit!

During your Kannsege ceremony, you’ll be naming your Butzemann, and giving him a tour of the perimeter of the territory he’s assigned to protect while telling him what you want him to do there. Finally you’ll take him to his home post, leave him with some offerings, and let him get to work! Just don’t forget about your Butzemann. Leave offerings regularly, and thank him whenever you see that he has done his job well.

Happy Entschanning, everyone! Many blessings on you, your goals for the coming year, and your new Butzemann!

For reference while creating your Butzemann, or further reading, check out these links:

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